Get to Know Sharon Davey

November 4th, 2020

We are hugely excited to be publishing Bears Don't Wear Shoes, a brand new picture book from Sharon Davey. Sharon is the illustrator behind I Don't Like Books. Never. Ever. The End. by Emma Perry, and Bear's Don't Wear Shoes marks her debut as both author and illustrator. Sharon was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book!

Tell us a little about Bears Don’t Wear Shoes…how did you come up with the idea in the first place?

I once saw a toddler command a large bearded biker to play colouring in with her and I thought, wow kids really are fearless. It was that lack of fear and desire to solve her own problem that makes Suzy an interesting character. She doesn’t worry about inviting a massive bear into her house, just whether she’ll have to choose her new friendship over her love for shoes. She’s wilful, demanding and really baffles this bear into playing along.  He never gets a name and only says a few noises, so I really had to use expression to show all of the bear's personality, which was a real challenge. My favourite character is the cat though. He would be me in this story, terrified and reluctant to return even after the bear and Suzy’s friendship gets past the ‘shoe incident’. 

What was it like writing the book as well as illustrating it?

This story was in my sketchbook for a really long time and I kept going back to the idea as visuals long before I started to write the story. When I write, I like to imagine the main character sitting next to me chatting away like little kids do. Saying amazing things and dragging grown-ups into their world with the ease and charm of wise oracles.

Have you done much writing before?

This is my very first authored book. I think of myself as less of a writer and more of a storyteller. 

What was the most challenging thing about working on Bears Don’t Wear Shoes?

As this is the first time I have illustrated my own words in book form I really struggled to figure out what Bear and Suzy actually looked like. Mostly, when I read other peoples words, I get a picture in my head of the possible shapes and personalities of the characters. With my own work I went blank and had to try a LOT of bears before I settled on the one you see in the book. I’ve heard this is a common issue for author illustrators, struggling to make decisions on their own characters.

What was the most fun thing about working on it?

The patterns and details I could add at the final colour stages. I have added many little items and details from my own life and childhood. Down to the records in Grandma’s box and the easel I remember from playgroup when I was three.

Do you have any routines or rituals when you work?

I keep to a pretty strict schedule when I’m drawing. I try to check my emails in the morning then get comfortable with a cup of tea and my pencils. My workday has fluctuated over the years but I try to keep to 9am to 3pm and then start again at 8pm to 11pm. Lockdown definitely changed my hours and having kids in the house full-time meant I worked when the house was quiet – sometimes during the night.

Who are your biggest inspirations when it comes to writing and illustrating?

My mum is an expert storyteller and she can make a trip to the shops sound like an adventure through a wonderland. She can find the joy and fun in any situation and so much of my time as a kid was spent laughing. I’m so inspired by all the writers in the children's book field at the moment. Karl Newson is a particular favourite with his soulful turn of phrase and gorgeous lyrical rhymes.

I love Quentin Blake and Rebecca Dautremer but my top five current illustrators are: 
David Roberts, Emily Gravitt, Kate Hindley, Birgitta Sif and Beatrice Alemagna.

To be honest I could have a top fifty and still wouldn’t be even close to running out of names. I love illustration more than cake (and I really love cake!) These illustrators are my favourite because they are so emotive and creative with mood. They don’t just rely on expression but mesh together composition, colour and rhythm in a way that makes me squeal when I see a new piece of work.

What do you hope children will take away from Bears Don’t Wear Shoes?

I hope kids love Bear's funny antics as much as I do. I think in general it’s a funny story about an unlikely friendship and the fact that we don’t have to like the same things to get along. Suzy is a strong little lady who knows her mind and still learns to compromise for her new friend.

What do you like to get up to when you’re not working?

When I’m not at my desk you can find me dancing in the kitchen or making things for books. I’m working with a puppet maker to bring Bear to life at the moment for when I get to meet kids and talk about the book. Whenever that may be.

Tell us something about you that not many people know.

I have a collection of plastic dinosaurs; they have their own personalities and hats. (Steve is my favourite – don’t tell the others!)

Suzy's family has moved house and everyone is just TOO BUSY to play with her. Eager for someone to play with, Suzy puts up a 'Friend Wanted' advert.
When Bear shows up he seems perfect for the job... Until he refuses to wear shoes. Can Suzy and Bear still be best friends if Suzy loves shoes but Bear ABSOLUTELY won't wear them?
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